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The Best in South Asian Science Fiction

Southern Asian literature is know for its rich storytelling, saturated in the culture they are well-known for. So by no surprise, South Asian science fiction is not so different.

Instead of the usual fairies and vampires and robot invasions, we have Jinns in the royal court plotting to overthrow empires; we have alternate realities of uncolonized kingdoms thriving under new inventions and advancements in science beyond belief.

The following books will take you on some thrilling journeys across the world (and galaxy!), and have you battling with historical Jinns, once-human robots, demons and other nameless supernatural creatures from South Asian folklore.

1. The Salvage Crew by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne (Sri Lankan)

Growing up on the same tiny island where the fascination for science fiction began and (seemingly) ended with Arthur C. Clarke, author Yudhanjaya Wijeratne has managed to rekindle what was long-forgotten.

In The Salvage Crew, we are introduced to a world where human consciousness is planted within AI (in the simplest terms), and are sent into outer space to salvage the remains of ancient, forgotten starships.

This book features a three-human crew, led by a relatively young AI (who used to be a Buddhist, with a love of poetry, back when he was human). During an apparently simple mission, they land on Urmahon Beta to salvage the remains of a UN starship…when everything goes out of hand.

Faced by nameless gigantic creatures that could crush them underfoot, hunted down by a not-so-human-looking rival crew that ought to have died ages ago, and struggling with cheap technology, this little salvage crew will not only have your heartbeat racing, but will also have you rooting for a machine that is unable to let go of its humanity.

Get The Salvage Crew from Amazon.

2. The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh (Indian)

The Calcutta Chromosome, alternating between timelines and places (from near-future New York and Victorian India), is the story of Antar, an Egyptian-American stuck in a tedious job of monitoring an inventory of mundane objects. But his exhausting and pointless life turns around when he finds the damaged ID card of a forgotten acquaintance, Murugan: a man obsessed with how malaria is transmitted. A man who is either extremely clever—or downright mad.

This book will take you across different centuries and different countries, sometimes leaving you disoriented as the plot slowly unravels and some aspects of true medical history come into play.

Get The Calcutta Chromosome from Amazon.

3. The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T. Malik (Pakistani)

Winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Novella and nominee for the 2015 Nebula Award, The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn, by Pakistani author Usman T. Malik, revolves around elements of Pakistani folklore and mythology.

Our young Pakistani narrator, living in the US, is captivated by his grandfather’s stories of a princess who worked in a small tea stall, and a Jinn that lived on a eucalyptus tree—both of which are destroyed in a fire. This young narrator grows up to be a professor, but retains his childhood fantasies, gripped with a desire to return to Lahore and discover this long-lost princess’s secrets.

The princess, as his grandfather’s story unfolds, is the pauper… then why is the title of the book “The Pauper Prince“? Therein lies an interesting twist to the story.

Buy the book from Amazon.

Sharika Hafeez

Sharika Hafeez is a nerd, and she’s proud of it. Growing up, she fell in love with books and writing, and is currently following her undergraduate degree (for some mysterious reasons) in Physics. She likes procrastinating by watching the stars with a steaming cup of tea, composing poetry in her head.

September 9, 2021

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